Star Wars: Expanded Universe Read-Through “Darth Bane: Rule of Two” by Drew Karpyshyn

ruleoftwoI have embarked on a quest to read through the Star Wars Expanded Universe once more. Be sure to check the linked text there to see other posts in this series. Here, we look at Darth Bane: Rule of Two, the middle of the Darth Bane trilogy, which is set a millennium before the original trilogy. It provides a background for how the Sith came to be as they appear in the films. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. Please do not SPOIL later books in the comments.

Darth Bane: Rule of Two

Darth Bane: Rule of Two picks up 10 years after the events of Path of Destruction with Bane teaching his apprentice, Zannah. Zannah has become a powerful ally, but due to Bane’s own teaching about the way of the Sith, she is also becoming more and more a rival and possible enemy to Bane. Zannah has begun looking for her own apprentice, seeking to perpetuate the Rule of Two–that there ought always and ever only be one master and one apprentice of the Sith, the master to teach, the student to try to overthrow. She uses this quest to test Bane’s strength but also to gather more forbidden Sith knowledge through collecting manuscripts from those she manipulates. In a battle with some Jedi, Bane is brutally wounded and forces a healer, Caleb, to care for him. Zannah protects her master rather than killing him in his weakened state because she’s decided she still has more to learn from Bane.

The plot of this entry isn’t quite as tightly woven as that of Path of Destruction. It meanders a bit, throwing Zannah all over the galaxy while the eponymous Bane falls into the background. That’s unfortunate, because Karpyshyn had made Bane into such a dynamic character in the previous entry. The portrayals of Bane when he does show up, as well as the development of Zannah, remain quite strong and are probably the highlight of the book. Karpyshyn has truly presented some of the most interesting evil characters I’ve run into this side of Robin Hobb.

The action scenes, when they happen, remain intense, and Karpyshyn deftly writes lightsaber battles that are easy to visualize and pulse-poundingly exciting. It’s not easy to write action scenes, as I’ve discovered myself, so this is another highlight of the book. Another difficulty is the rather ho-hum feeling of the tying off point. The tension at the beginning as Zannah apparently sought to betray Bane by finding her own apprentice fades away and we are left with Bane and Zannah effectively in the same position as they were in the previous book: master with much to teach, apprentice waiting to learn.

Darth Bane: Rule of Two is a good entry in what is already a great part of the Expanded Universe. Although it does drag occasionally and it feels very much like a middle entry in a series, the tone and characterization are enough to make it a worthy entry in the Star Wars universe.

The Good

+Excellent characters
+Good action scenes
+Theme and tone

The Bad

-Not as tightly plotted as previous entry
-Feels very much like a “middle” book

Best Droid Moment

N/A 😦

Grade: A- “It doesn’t live up to the stunning success of the previous entry, but it keeps the story going and the theme well enough to deserve its place.”

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Reading through Star Wars: Expanded Universe– Here you can read other posts in this series (reviews of other EU books) and make suggestions about what I should include in my reviews.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.

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Reading through the [Alleged] Best 100 Science Fiction Books- #16-20 scores and comments

childhoods-endI’m a huge science fiction fan, but realize I haven’t read a lot of those works considered classics or greats. I decided to remedy that, and found a list online of the Top 100 Science Fiction Books. The list is determined by vote from sci-fi fans online, so it may change over time. I am going off the order of the list as it was when I first saw it. Each book will receive a grade between F and A+ as well as very brief comments. I’m interested to read what you think about these books as well. There will be very minor spoilers in some of these.

16. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman Grade: A-
“As interesting for its historical context as it is for the plot that fills the pages, The Forever War is speculative fiction to the extreme. What happens ‘back home’ while soldiers are off at war? Who changes more: the soldiers or those sent to protect them? When will wars end and why? Haldeman constructed a classic. My main complaint is that for all of its grand speculation, the core of the plot is somewhat lackluster compared to later, similar efforts.”

17. Brave New World by Alduous Huxley A-
“Full of chilling moments of utter carelessness, Huxley’s book is eerily prophetic while remaining utterly ‘other.’ It has a sense of foreboding strangeness about it that I cannot shake off. Better than a lot of dystopias that have come out since.”

18. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells Grade: B
The Time Machine is a great read told in a somewhat archaic style. I enjoyed the interplay of fiction and speculation about philosophy. The main complaint against it is, again, the delivery, which is almost entirely a monologue of one person telling everyone else what happened.”

19. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke Grade: A
“I saw the SyFy [*shudders at spelling*] miniseries before I read this book. I liked the series quite a bit, and the book was even better. It’s unexpected and haunting. It is bleak. It questions everything. An excellent work, that challenges raders to think about what it means to have hope in humanity–or not.”

20. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein Grade: B-
“I wanted to enjoy this book more than I did. It was enjoyable, but the style dragged it down somewhat. It felt very matter-of-fact about even the most intense moments of the book. It’s not as beautiful as Stranger in a Strange Land nor as challenging as Starship Troopers. It’s still enjoyable, but the whole plot felt predictable. It lacked the excitement that comes with many other science fiction books. Not bad, certainly, but neither is it spectacular.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Reading through the [Alleged] Best 100 Science Fiction Books- Check out more posts in this series as I continue.

SDG.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 1 “Duet” and “In the Hands of the Prophets”

Everything is awful.

Everything is awful.

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“Duet”

Synopsis

Major Kira investigates a Cardassian passenger who is suffering from a syndrome that was limited to the survivors of an accident at one specific Bajoran forced-labor camp. She believes he helped perpetuate major war crimes at that camp, but he denies it, asserting that he was merely a clerk. As she continues the investigation, with help from Odo, she discovers that he was, in fact, Gul Darhe’el, the leader of the Cardassian labor camp. Or at least he appears to be. But some parts of this don’t add up, even as Gul Darhe’el now proudly boasts of the tortures and slaughter he helped carry out at the camp. The Cardassian leaders say that Gul Darhe’el is dead, and they have a different person. But why would anyone claim to be a war criminal? As Kira presses him, he breaks down under questioning, revealing that he was in fact the file clerk Marritza, who had changed his appearance to that of Gul Darhe’el to try to gain some justice for the Bajorans slaughtered at the camp he worked at–whose deaths he feels an enormous amount of guilt over, despite his being unable to do anything about it. As Kira goes to release Marritza, another Bajoran murders him, saying that his being a Cardassian was reason enough to kill him. Kira realizes, at last, that it is not reason enough.

Commentary

I can’t really say enough about how excellent this episode is. It draws quite clearly from various accounts of Germans who lived through the holocaust, often with immense guilt at not doing more to prevent the atrocities. It also draws some aspects from the true story of the capture of Eichmann (something well worth reading about if you haven’t–I suggest this book). It offers commentary on morality and human nature (and alien nature… whatever). It has a bleak ending, and I love my bleak endings in Star Trek. It’s got immense drama, mystery, and sorrow. These all combine to make a simply fantastic piece of Star Trek viewing.

Another aspect of the episode that is interesting is how much it relies on the characters. It gives Kira a way to shine without just being some insubordinate crazy person all the time (remember that time she BURNED DOWN A GUY’S HOUSE after camping out with him for a bit? yeah, like that). I think it is interesting that so many of the best Star Trek episodes are really just people sitting around talking to each other (“The Measure of a Man” from TNG, for example). That says something about the writers, to be honest.

If you really wanted to poke holes here, you could, but I’m not even going to go through and list the nitpicks that are possible because the episode is just too fantastic. It makes you think as a viewer, not just about the episode, but about who you are, what humanity is, and about history. A truly excellent episode and definitely the best of DS9 so far.

Grade: A+ “Not just one of the best Star Trek episodes across all the series, but one of the great pieces of television, period.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “Everything was great about it, except that by now Sisko should know better than to put Kira in charge of anything involving Cardassians.”

“In the Hands of the Prophet”

Synopsis

Keiko O’Brien is teaching her class about the wormhole when she is interrupted by Vedek Winn, a spiritual leader from Bajor. Winn complains that Keiko is not teaching orthodox Bajoran beliefs regarding the wormhole and bemoans any Bajorans being mislead by this teaching. As tensions surrounding what is taught in school about hte wormhole increase, Sisko visits Vedek Bareil, another spiritual leader of Bajor. Bareil is a front-runner to be the next kai, a major leader of the Bajoran people. He agrees with many of Sisko’s concerns, but refuses to put himself in the potential political quagmire that would follow condemnation of Winn. Back on the station, a bombing happens at the school, which finally prompts Bareil to come to DS9 to help ease tensions. Winn, however had set up an assassination attempt, and Neela, who’d been working with O’Brien, is stopped–barely–by Sisko. Major Kira realizes that Winn’s activity was largely an attempt to lure Bareil into the open, but she cannot prove anything regarding the conspiracy.

Commentary

I think the biggest problem with this episode is its rather condescending tone towards those who disagree with its central premise. Basically, if you don’t line up lockstep with reinterpreting your religion in whatever way Starfleet’s characters determine best, then you’re a fundamentalist idiot. But there’s no question asked about whether trying to force others to reinterpret the tenets of their faith is just or even acceptable. It’s just assumed that if you believe x, you should instead believe y, because we don’t like x. I found that a pretty severe problem, especially because Starfleet continues to be portrayed as this kind of benevolent, allow everyone to believe whatever they want, kind of society. Of course, there are plenty of religious people who do explicitly condemn or deny findings of science, and this can lead to bad things. However, there are others who do reinterpret such claims or findings, or simply accept them. The narrative of the science-religion conflict is front-and-center here, but that narrative is itself mistaken.

Okay, with that out of the way, it is worth looking at some of the things the episode got right. It did have a great build up to drama. The conspiracy Winn was involved in made sense looking back but was surprising when it was revealed. It built up more drama surrounding the Bajoran political system. So really, a lot of things were done well in this episode. But it was so danged pretentious I couldn’t get over it.

Grade: B- “It showed just how inconsistent Starfleet is with its alleged tolerance of all viewpoints, but had a fairly strong central plot to make up for it.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “It dealt with the issues it raised, but I’m not sure that the issues it raised were real issues. Also, I just have a hard time believing that Bajoran spirituality is as monolithic as it keeps getting presented.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: DS9- For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 1 “The Forsaken” and “Dramatis Personae”

Well this is weird, all around.

Well this is weird, all around.

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“The Forsaken”

Synopsis

A delegation of ambassadors shows up on DS9, one of whom is the great Lwaxana Troi. Bashir is assigned to show the ambassadors around while Chief O’Brien struggles to teach the stations computer how to work. Troi starts to pursue a relationship with Odo. When an alien object shows up, suddenly the computer goes haywire. Troi and Odo are trapped together, and the other ambassadors are trapped due to an explosion with Dr. Bashir. Troi allows Odo to go liquid form in her dress to protect him, and Bashir manages–just–to save the other ambassadors. High fives all around.

Commentary

Lwaxana Troi drives me crazy, but she has become a progressively better character, despite her obnoxious qualities, as Star Trek goes on. Here again we see a new dimension of her character–a touching one–in which she reveals to Odo her own weaknesses regarding her looks to allow Odo to feel more comfortable with his own need to go liquid form (that’s what I’m calling it–deal with it).

Yeah, the side plot with the “puppy dog alien computer virus” was weird, but it served its purpose–to create drama for the other characters. Bashir’s delightful idiocy also got some expansion as he was smart when under pressure–something he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to demonstrate. He got all the perks of showing the ambassadors he could have dreamed of. Go Bashir!

So yeah, there are some big problems in this episode, not least of which is the weird virus that just wants some love, but those can largely be forgiven because Odo/Lwaxana worked so well together. It’s a true character piece that gives a lot more dimension to both of them.

Grade: A- “Like a puppy, it’s got some problems to work out, but it has a lot of heart.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It revealed depths of Lwaxana’s character that were previously hidden.”

“Dramatis Personae”

Synopsis

When an alien object is returned to the station, the crew starts to go crazy. It turns out that the alien object has managed to force most people on the station to start acting out roles in an ancient alien drama, recapitulating its warlike, betrayal-laden plot. Odo and Bashir manage to remove the alien influence from the crew, and everything is saved with only minimal losses.

Commentary

Okay, this is a really strange episode. It’s like some attempt to integrate Shakespeare into DS9 but in a way that isn’t as spectacularly epic (or fail) as many of the episodes with the same idea in TNG. It’s just weird. The impending paranoia that surrounds everyone in the crew made me as a viewer uneasy, but I never felt it was truly a threat to anyone, largely because they didn’t introduce any side character who might actually be in danger (yes, I know, it is hard not to meta-). But, that said, it was fun seeing all the characters being so out-of-character, and Sisko made a really, really cool clock that I would love to have. I don’t have much more to say about this one, to be honest. Strange.

Grade: B- “I want that clock.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “It was a cool story, but didn’t seem to make much sense as a Star Trek episode.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: DS9- For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.